My “tone fetish” has reached all new lows. Anyone who does not share my perversion for the finer points of Mandarin should look away now.
I posted the following on theBeijinger:
How do you pronounce three third tones in a row? For example, for the name of Lu Xun's antihero, Kǒng Yǐjǐ - 孔乙己？
Mandarin learners know that when two third tones are together, the first becomes a second tone, and that if a third tone precedes a second tone, the tone is cut in half, only the first half being pronounced. Considering these two axioms here are three potential solutions:
- Kong(half third) Yi(second)ji(third) - this seems like quite a mouthful.
- Kong(second)Yi(third)ji(third) - in which case one rule is not being observed.
- Two second tones followed by a whole third.
I even emailed John at Sinosplice with this query. As one of the voices behind Chinesepod, I consider him an expert. Neither him, nor the 57 readers of my forum post, replied. As well as proving that I have too much time on my hands, this lack of response demonstrates that mine is either a very stupid or a very difficult question. Either I have uncovered a contradiction inherent within the Chinese language, or, more likely: I have missed something.
If anyone, especially Chinese readers (write in Chinese or English) could shed some light on the subject, The Peking Order would be grateful for a comment.